Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton needs a hug.
I just have this mental image of him sitting down in front of a baby grand piano, scooching the bench a little closer, placing his fingers upon the keys, then letting go with a long, audible sigh.
A small child, eyes bright with wonder, heart bursting with love, mind overloaded with a insatiable desire for knowledge of the world and how it works.
"What's wrong, Mr. Newton?" the child asks, voice chirping with youthful innocence and wonder, "You look sad."
Cam looks down at the kid, put his hand on top of her head and says, "That's just it, I don't know. Nothing's working the way it did last year. And today's game, I - I..." Newton trails off, looking away so he can blink away tears but hide them from the girl's view. He turns back toward the girl and continues, "I just want to forget about today and all those mistakes I've been making."
"You can't just forget your inept offensive performance, Cam, you'll never learn from it." the child tells Newton before turning around and walking away, fading into the background.
FIVE THINGS LEARNED ON SUNDAY:
NUMBER ONE: Cam Newton must finish what he starts.
Through three quarters, four minutes and 33 seconds, Newton was stale. To that point in the game, he'd completed just 6 of his 22 pass attempts for a mere 62 yards. Then, suddenly, lightning struck! Taking possession from his own 20 yard line, he marched the Panthers down the field with precision, poise and fire. Newton completed six straight passes for 79 yards, and a touchdown at that point seemed a mere formality.
The drive then stalled, and the Panthers were faced with fourth and goal from the one yard line. Despite calling a great play, despite Seattle perfectly defending said great play, despite rarely targeted tight end Ben Hartsock getting free in the left end zone, Newton couldn't finish the play. His pass was not even close, in fact, it bounced on the field well short of its intended target.
NUMBER TWO: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson may not be the best, but today he was "good enough".
When head coach Pete Carroll named rookie quarterback Russell Wilson the starter for week one this year, many, if not most people following the NFL were puzzled. Seemed like an odd move, especially considering the presence of free-agent signee Matt Flynn. Wilson has not been spectacular.
He has not even been very good. With the 2012 Seahawks, the quarterback doesn't seem to need to be. So long as he helps them score 'just enough', and doesn't flagrantly lose the game for Seattle, he's the starter. In this game, one offensive touchdown was all Seattle needed, as Seattle beat Carolina 16-12.
Russell Wilson hooked up with receiver Golden Tate, pictured below, to take a 13-10 lead in the third quarter.
NUMBER THREE: With a defense like this, who needs offense?
A big reason that the mediocre play of Russell Wilson isn't detrimental (yet) to the Seahawks' chances of winning, is their defense. Perhaps Pete Carroll knew this when naming Wilson his starter.
Seriously though, with starting cornerbacks measuring 6'3" and 6'4" respectively, confidence can soar. The starting corners can match up with any receiver in the league. The Seahawks also have an abundance of talent at the safety position, and along the defensive line.
NUMBER FOUR: Head Coach Ron Rivera Needs To Make Better Decisions
Carolina trailed Seattle 16-10 when the Panthers were faced with fourth and goal from the one yard line. Kicking a field goal meant that Carolina would have been down just three points with 3:47 to go in the game.
A quick three and out by the defense, on a impotent Seattle offense, would give the ball back to Cam Newton, who at the time was red-hot. By going for it, a move that "results in success just 32% of the time" (percentage courtesy Mike Sando, Dean Oliver of ESPN.com).
NUMBER FIVE: It Is Going To Be A Long Year In Charlotte
Breaking out of a funk is difficult, and Cam Newton is deep inside one right now. It sure would be inspiring and reassuring not just to media folks like me, but I'm certain to the Panthers organization and their fans, to see their franchise quarterback really step up, grab the team by the face mask and DECLARE that HE WILL NOT QUIT.
I am NOT calling Newton a quitter, but what I am saying is, he needs to make some kind of statement, have a players-only meeting, take his linemen out for a steak dinner, do SOMETHING to inspire these guys before the season really becomes lost. At 1-4, the season's only just begun.